Cork-born and a graduate of University College Galway, Mary O’Malley was the founder and director of Belfast’s Lyric Players Theatre from 1951–81. She started the theatre in the former stables at the back of her Malone Road home. Within five years the Lyric had staged 32 plays, opened a drama school, and established the literary magazine, Threshold, with O’Malley as first editor and the poet John Hewitt poetry editor.
A self-taught and tireless director, she contested cultural populism and indifference in the north during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s to pioneer the new theatre. In 1961 the Lyric Players Theatre became a non-profit association, a base from where her protégés from Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds and others bestrode stage and screen.